By Philip Goldman
It wasn't the day Tom envisioned when he tried to spark a revolution amongst his fellow hobos, but it's not going to be the kind of thing he ever forgets. In an intricate tale that leads the reader to a multitude of mythological and historical landmarks, Holy Brother is not for a casual observer.
After trying to lead a revolution, Tom ends up in the home of a gentleman called Sam, who tells him the story of the Comte de Sainte-Germain, an immortal pseudo-mythological being who travels through all of space and time-- and now he's locked up in Tom's subconscious. Thus begins a quest inside Tom's head to find and conquer Germain, a quest that takes us to Nazi Germany, through the exploration of the moon on Apollo 11, and to what might be just an ordinary old day in Amsterdam. Tom meets a cast of characters fitting for a true hero while he completes his journey of enlightenment through trials, tribulations, and victories that range from the minute to the extraordinary.
As my first time writing a review, I was a little nervous of what I'd run into initially-- but Holy Brother was the sort of thing I'm grateful to have received right off the bat. This book is chock full of adventure, and that's putting it lightly. Tom meets tons of interesting people on his journey through his own subconscious, and their insight and helpful guidance kept me eager for more. Switching in and out of the world(s) kept inside Tom's brain and in what was really happening to him in Sam's house was great for me-- it gave the reader an opportunity to feel grounded in the midst of all the unusual, magicky happenings that can occur in a person's head. But those things were great too! How often do you see a tree sprout an arm to wave at you as you pass by it? Or find yourself floating around in outer space, or manage to do magic just by mumbling a few seemingly disconnected sounds?
I want to make it clear that I did really find this book quite interesting and unique. I was definitely intrigued by the plot, but sometimes I had a hard time following it. Philip Goldman is a bright guy, and it's obvious in the intricacies of his story, but sometimes I found that a little detrimental as well. There's something to be said for an extensive vocabulary-- it can help describe a situation with accuracy that otherwise would be unattainable-- but it can also distract from the narrative if it's too pronounced. For Holy Brother, I found that I was jarred out of my reading experience pretty regularly by words with which I'm unfamiliar. Sometimes my Kindle didn't even know the definition of them! And that's definitely cool and educational to an extent, but it also felt like it makes the book a little unapproachable. Passages that are meant to indicate different accents were rough too-- I found myself completely skipping some of them because I couldn't make any sense of them even though I tried to read them aloud for some phonetic touchstone.
Overall, I thought Holy Brother was a really great idea. It's complicated and not at all for the weak of heart or for someone who wants to just do a little casual reading, but if you're looking for something that will suck you in and require some brain power, this is the kind of book you're looking for. It winds mythology, history, magic, and science together to create an intricate world where fantasy and reality mix together in a cocktail of intrigue, and that's the kind of thing I dig.